Spring has sprung – kind of – or at least, if it hasn’t with you yet, I’m sure you’re chomping at the bit to get out the house and away from the hot water bottle by now! So we’ve spoken to Steph Fairfoul from Enjoybedandbreakfast.com (a small independent travel website showcasing bed and breakfasts and guest houses) about the top five accessible breaks in the Lake District!
Following on from our article about holidays in the South East of England and the superb Sussex Downs, we’re moving onto the one and only awe inspiring Lake District.
The Lakes are some of the most accessible parts of the UK for outdoorsy types. With a stupendous 42 routes mapped out in the Lake District National Park, Miles without Stiles series to pick from (not to mention water sports, disabled cycling, adrenaline experience, the list goes on…) it would be impossible to pick just 5 of the best. With these easy access walks there’s no need to trek up into the high fells for breath-taking views, awesome scenery and a serious dose of fresh air.
And so, here is part 1 of the Lake District… and keep an eye out for part 2 later on this year!
1. Broughton Railway Trail, Broughton-in-Furness
Sitting at the far south of the Lake District National Park, Broughton-in-Furness is a picturesque market town dating back to the 12th century. The railway, which ran from Broughton to Coniston, was constructed in the 1850s but closed in 1958. The first few kilometres of train track have since been flattened with a compact stone track making it a wheelchair accessible 4.5km wander.
The trail starts in the Market Square of Broughton-in-Furness, marked by an Obelisk installed in 1810 to mark the jubilee of George III. Heading north east from the square onto Knott Lane, the path wheedles through Wilson Park and woodlands onto the train tracks with lovely views of the surrounding landscape.
Although there are no facilities en route, there is an information centre, toilets and parking at the Market Square and plenty of cafes and pubs for refreshments before or after your meander.
For a detailed map view and further information on gradients at the Broughton Railway Trail, visit the Lake District National Park website.
2. Calder Bridge at Calder Abbey, Calder Bridge
On the far west side of the Lakes sits the pretty village of Calder Bridge, home to the ruins of Calder Abbey. Founded in 1134, Calder Abbey was a Savigniac monastery disestablished by Henry VIII during the protestant reformation in the 1530s. What remains are the ruins, primarily the cloisters, and a grade 1 listed mansion built next door in the mid 19th century.
Although neither the ruins nor the mansion are currently open to the public, this riverside walk from the village of Calder Bridge provides the best sneak peeks of the ruins described as one of Britain’s most enchanting ecclesiastic relics.
The walk is pretty easy going and runs alongside the picturesque River Calder for 2km, at most. The path winds gently downhill crossing a small stream along wooded banks. There are sandstone cliffs on the far banks of the river providing the perfect haven for kingfishers, herons as well as local salmon and trout fishermen, so keep your eyes peeled!
Calder Abbey is about a kilometre into the track and is the turning point for heading back into the village.
Again, facilities are a little lacking with only a small informal car park in the village and no toilets or seating en route. However, the local village pub has superb cask ales, which more than makes up for the lack of other facilities!
For a detailed map view and further information on gradients go to the Visit Cumbria website.
3. Derwentwater Lake, Allerdale
Derwentwater Lake is noted as one of the most dramatic and scenic parts of the Lake District. Sitting in the borough of Allerdale, south of Keswick, the lake is 5km long and 1km wide with towering fells wrapping all around it.
There are two accessible paths around the lake. One at the south westerly corner and the other at the north east. The far north east walk is far shorter, passing the theatre and Friar’s Crag, so named because it was believed to be the embarking point for monks making a pilgrimage to St Herbert’s Island.
The south westerly walk, looping at about 8km, has the better views but is a bit more strenuous. This map of the walks and of all the facilities available is a really useful guide.
The route kicks off at Hawse End, where there is ample car parking, then winds south along the lake shore. There and back again is 8km, although you could turn back at any point if you wished to do a shorter amble.
The 2m wide compact stone track takes you past the peaceful shores of Victoria Bay and into the rugged woodlands of Brandlehow. The views are jaw dropping with high fells of catbells behind you and the far crags on the other side of the lake framing Derwentwater magnificently.
There are plenty of picnic benches and stopping points within the woodlands providing perfect spots for you to stop off. On reaching the south tip of the lake you’ll see the Chinese Bridge, which was renovated in 2009 to allow wheelchair access, and the turning point for heading back to Hawese End. In theory, you could continue over the bridge and all the way up the east side of the lake to Keswick, if you’re feeling particularly energetic!
A detailed map route can be seen on the Lake District National Park website.
4. Brock Hole Visitor Centre, Windermere
Brock Hole Visitor Centre, in Windermere, makes a great starting point for an adventure in the Lakes and is a perfect place to go with kids. More importantly, entry to the house, grounds and lakeshore is free!
Not strictly a walk, but the gardens and grounds with meadows, woodland trails, the walled gardens and an adventure play area for kids, are divine and have superb wheelchair access.
The completely accessible and easy going route is approx. 1.5km and details can be found on the Lake District National Park website. There are plenty more paths and walkways through the grounds, which can be accessed by wheelchair, but the gradients are a little harder to handle.
Brock Hole also has a couple of mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs you can borrow to get around the grounds. Not to mention the Brockmobile electric bus, which ferries people from the car park down to the lakeside jetty. There’s also a fully accessible cafe serving freshly prepared local produce with beautiful views over Lake Windermere.
Brock Hole is more of a day out then a walk, but most certainly worth paying a visit! For more detailed access info about the grounds, gardens and house itself, visit the Brock Hole Visitor Centre website.
5. White Moss Common, near Grasmere
The forests at White Moss Common are some of the best examples of deciduous forest in Cumbria. This walk takes you along the River Rothay and into the meadows and forests for approx 1.5km round trip. There is plenty of parking with disabled parking spaces at the starting point of the walk – and an all-important resident ice cream van – just off the A591.
The path starts out at the car park taking you over a wooden bridge and into open meadowlands with seating by the riverside. There is plenty of wildlife to be seen on this dappled section of the River Rothay, from herons and ducks to a group of apparently aggressive and territorial swans here, which rule the roost!
You can try and venture further along the path through the gates at Penny Rock Wood, but this is trickier terrain as the gradient and ground surface can get a bit rough and uneven.
Where to stay…
The Lakes has some great value and varied accommodation from youth hostels to self-catering lodges and independent guest houses, all with varying levels of accessibility.
There is only one accommodation provider in the whole of Cumbria which has achieved access exceptional status from the National Accessibility Scheme (NAS). Stuart and Jane’s Norwegian-style, grass roofed eco lodges at Mitchelland Farm, near Kendal, make a perfect base for exploring the lakes. From bespoke designed accessible kitchens to roll-in wet rooms and private verandas, the lodges have exceptional views of the surrounding countryside; you probably couldn’t ask for much more from your accommodation!
For a full access statement visit the Mitchelland Farm website, or contact Stuart and Jane to discuss your requirements on 015394 47421.
Meadowcroft Country Guest House, situated not far from Windermere in Ings village, is a 4* B&B ran by Rosemary and Linda. Awarded by the NAS as suitable for part-time wheelchair users, Meadowcroft has two accessible rooms to choose from with level access showers and disabled toilets. Better still, the gated property leads onto a tarmac path giving wheelchair access to the surrounding countryside with awesome views.
If you are after some serious luxury then try Tottergill Farms holiday cottages, in Brampton, shortlisted this year for the Enjoy England Awards of Excellence. With three luxurious cottages to choose from, featuring added extras like underfloor heating, wood burning stoves, WiFi and flatscreen TV’s, alongside NAS rated accommodation suitable for part time wheelchair users, Tottergill is definitely worth a look in.
You can get in touch with Stephen and Joyce on 01228 670 615 to discuss your requirements.
By Steph Fairfoul
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